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2016 Restaurant of the Year…

Heirloom was the winner for us and our choice for NYE!  A close second was Upton 43, which was picked as the local paper’s favorite of 2016.  We had a great time with our friend, formerly known as Reservations for One (RFO).  A bottle of Prosecco, a cheese plate and great entrees closed out 2016 in style.  If you haven’t tried Heirloom yet, please go!  Their weekend brunch is great and their dinners are fabulous too.

2016 was the year of restaurant closings.  Sadly we saw our favorite go to restaurant, Cafe Levain close not long after their long-time chef departed for a non-chef position at a local co-op.  Also closed/closing…Heartland, Brassiere Zentral, Piccolo and many others.  Some of which were past “restaurant of the year.”  I hope we haven’t doomed Heirloom.  Though, there is a season for everything as they say and I know that the owners/chefs at these now shuttered restaurants will be back doing something fabulous in the not too distant future.

Plenty of new restaurants to try for 2017…so never fear.  We’ll see how early we pick NYE 2017.  April was the earliest a few years ago.  Trying a new place in February with RFO.  Doubt we’ll be able to call it that early, but stranger things have happened…especially throughout the year we just went through.

Here’s to 2017!

Happy Eating!

Xavi Restaurant

Recently read about a new restaurant in the old First Course space on 56th and Chicago in South Minneapolis called Xavi.  It’s been open 1 week today.  Nothing like a mid-week new restaurant visit to mix it up a bit.

The hubby arrived before I did and was seated in a half booth/ half table location that faced the kitchen.  I thought it was nice space – though at times it felt awkward to be facing the area where all of the workers were gathered.  They definitely had extra staff on hand to train and continue to get used to the cadence of diners on the different evenings of the week.

When I arrived, there was an almost empty dish of pickles and pickled red peppers that the hubby had been noshing on while he waited.  Just fine by me as I’m not a pickle person.   Currently there is no alcohol served as they await the final licensing, etc.  They will start serving beer and wine on July 1st.  If that is a must for you, suggest you wait until then.  As for us, I had a diet coke and the hubby was sipping on lemonade.

The overall look and feel of the restaurant was good.  I liked the lighting and the color for the most part.  The one thing that was a little odd was the location of the bathrooms.  They are right in the middle of the restaurant between the kitchen and the bar.  I did visit one of the restrooms and I just hope the lock never breaks or someone doesn’t forget to push the lock button.  The potential for major embarrassment is high – those at the bar facing the kitchen might get an eye full.

Anyway, onto the food…

We both started with the Mushroom Broth as a first course.  The broth came with mushrooms and a few pork dumplings.  It was very good and had a variety of flavors.  It was savory, but every so often it had a hint of sweet.  It seemed a bit like a French Onion soup base but a bit sweet.  It was a good soup choice for the first day of summer – not heavy.

The hubby then went with the red wine braised short rib with shishito peppers, and lemon polenta.  I wonder if they were able to actually braise it in red wine given their liquor restriction until July.  The meat was very good and a nice combintation with the polenta.  It was served with a lot of peppers.

I went with the monkfish with saffron couscous, pea shoots, slow roasted tomato and preserved lemon.  The fish had a nice crispy top, I would have preferred to have a bit more of that flavor throughout.  I’m not sure I had ever had monkfish before.  It was a lot meatier than I was expecting.  I did have to use the knife they brought with it.  The couscous and tomatoes were awesome.  I had to put the block on the hubby with the couscous or he would have eaten it all.  I thought the dish worked well, but I might have put the couscous with the shortribs and the polenta with the fish.  Just seemed like it was a better combination.

Given we were “all in” on the restaurant, we gave the desserts a try.  He went with the chocolate hazelnut trifle and I went with yuzu poundcake with shiso and blueberries.  My dessert was like a strawberry shortcake.  Very refreshing on a summer evening.  The hubby thought his was ok, but not great.  Definitely had a lot of chocolate for chocolate lovers.

The staff was very attentive and the manager/owner visited our table several times.  I hope this restaurant does well.  Not sure we will rush back as there are so many restaurants in the cities to try, but I would give it a try if you like the menu.

Happy eating!

Linden Hills on a Sunday Morning

The hubby and I decided to hit the Edina Art Fair today after postponing Friday and Saturday due to rain.  A trip out on a Sunday morning requires a brunch stop of course, so we headed to Linden Hills.

If you haven’t ventured to this area in awhile, you are missing out!  There is of course the new Upton 43 which I posted about in January.  There is also Patisserie 46‘s sister cafe, Rose Street Patisserie, which opened in the past couple of months.  Also in the area are other great restaurants such as Tilia, Harriet Brassiere, Naviya’s Thai Brasserie, and for dessert, Sebastian Joe’s ice cream.

We stopped in for brunch at an oldie but a goodie, Zumbro Cafe! We got there at a decent time and were immediately seated at a two top near the window.  I ordered a vanilla latte which arrived quickly in all it’s full-fat, warm yummy goodness.  The hubby ordered the Huevos Zumbrosos which included spicy red beans,grilled tortillas, house-made salsa and sour cream.  I had the Smoked Bacon and Gouda Frittata with roasted potatoes and toast.  The potatoes were fabulous, my only complaint was there weren’t enough for me to have (and share with the hubby who loved them too).  All in all it was a fabulous breakfast and a great start to our Sunday morning.  The staff at Zumbro is fantastic.  I watched while the owner or manager helped an elderly gentleman to his feet after his breakfast (pretty sure this guy is a regular) and then he helped him to his car.  Fantastic to watch the care and respect shown to all customers – young and old.

After Zumbro, we headed over to the Linden Hill’s farmer’s market to take a peek at what that was like.  Lots of food booths as well as a couple of food trucks.  You could do some damage if you lived in the area and had access to this market every weekend.

We then ventured into Rose Street Patisserie to take a couple of pastries home for later in the day.  Great 2 story space and fabulous looking desserts and pastries.  The hubby got a piece of lemon pound cake and I went with a brioche injected with creme fraiche and dusted with sugar.  Both were quite tasty.

After leaving the Linden Hills area, we headed to the Edina Art Fair where we managed to help a few artists finish the show with fewer items to take back with them.

If you are looking for a fun neighborhood, Linden Hills is the place to go on a Sunday morning.  And if you are looking for a good art fair, 2 weeks until the Stone Arch Bridge Festival.

Happy eating!

Upton 43

We celebrated the end of a two week break from work over the holidays by trying a new restaurant, Upton 43.

The restaurant is in the Linden Hills neighborhood and has been highly anticipated as another restaurant by the folks behind Victory 44.  While they share the same minds behind the restaurants, I would say they took the opportunity to create something totally different from each other.  This is probably a great idea so as not to take away business from each other.  Victory 44 is a great place to stop for a beer and a burger.  Upton 43 is more fine dining with a glass of wine.  Upton 43 has its roots in Swedish cuisine, but with a French cooking flair.

We arrived and were quickly seated in a “floating” booth in the center of the restaurant.  This made it easy for the staff to refill our water glasses from either side.  The ambiance of the restaurant is a little stark and cold, but in a good way.  The light fixtures pinpoint LED lighting directly in the center of the tables.  Plenty of light to see the menu and what you are eating, but preserves the ambiance of the restaurant by creating a sense of darker space around you.  The overall color scheme was a grayish blue with wood tables and booths.

The restaurant was pretty quiet the evening we were there with just a few tables besides us.  This made for plenty of attention by the staff.

I had a good glass of red wine.  It paired nicely with the meal.  Unfortunately they don’t have their wine list on their website, so I can’t tell you what wine I had.

We each ordered a starter and an entree.  The hubby began with a starter of fried goat gouda balls on a bed of kale and lingonberry.  The cheese just melted in your mouth.  I went with the dried apple & acorn squash soup, onion, burnt cream, and linseed.  It was absolutely fabulous.  The bread basket was a nice addition to the starters.

For the main entree, I went with the Swedish meatballs, potato puree, and charred cucumber.  Great comfort food pick.  I’m not a pickle person, but the charred cucumber was essentially a sweet pickle that I really enjoyed.  Still don’t think I’ll be adding pickles to my sandwiches and meals in the future, but I’d eat the charred cucumber again in a heartbeat.  The hubby went with the warm grains, sunchoke, apple, truffle, and onion petal entree.  He enjoyed it, but I don’t think it was the best option on the menu.

We ended the dinner by splitting dessert.  The soder tea cremeaux, pear, burnt honey, and white chocolate was great.  Hard to describe it, but definitely worth getting it – below is a picture of the funky, but awesome dish!  Also note that all of the dishes were made specifically for Upton 43.

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All in all it was a good meal and good experience.  I think the type of restaurant it is seems a little odd for the location.  The location would be better served by a restaurant with a little lower price point and a few more options on the menu so as to attract repeat neighborhood visits.  It seems more like someplace that should be downtown Mpls or in the Uptown area.  However, I’m sure it will do fine where it is located.  Great restaurant for a special occasion, but probably not somewhere I’d go on a weekly basis.

The prices on the menu are a bit on the higher side, but this is a no tip restaurant.  They pay their staff higher wages so the tips are not necessary.  They build this into the cost of the dinner.  Keep that in mind when you see the prices.  Even with that said, we shared a dessert because we couldn’t comprehend each getting dessert and paying $14 a piece for them.

Definitely a place to check out if you are interested in trying a new restaurant and like the Scandinavian cooking scene that seems to be rather hot in Mpls at this time.

Happy Eating!

 

Brassiere Zentral Closing

Sad foodie news today.  After not quite 2 years, Brassiere Zentral is shutting its doors.  This was our favorite restaurant of 2014 and where we spent our NYE that year.  Unfortunately we never made it there in 2015, though we did visit the associated wine bar Foreign Legion.  So many restaurants in the cities to try that we sometimes miss going back to good ones like this.  We did make it to Zentral 4-5 times in 2014, but 0 in 2015.  Maybe if we would have gone once during the last year…

It’s open until January 16th for those in the cities that want to give it a try.  Thankfully Russell Klein’s other restaurant Meritage is still doing well in St. Paul.  We had dinner there with a good friend of mine in December before going to the Ordway.  Klein was in the restaurant that evening, perhaps that was a foreshadowing of the news that hit the papers today.

Do me a favor, get to Meritage for brunch, dinner, or a late night snack.  Foreign Legion is also remaining open and will accept Brassiere Zentral gift cards.  Let’s make sure Klein’s cooking still continues in the Twin Cities!

Happy Eating!

Saturday in Waconia

Yesterday was a gorgeous spring/summer Saturday and so we hopped in the car and headed out on a short road trip west to Waconia.  I continue to be amazed at all the interesting places around the Twin Cities.  It really is a great place to live!

Our first stop was to take a tour of J. Carver Distillery.  The location is in an old car dealership space and the remodel was fabulous! We learned about the different ingredients that go into the distillation process of gin, vodka, whiskey, bourbon, and grappa.  Also learned the specifics around what can be called a bourbon, brandy, etc.  So many rules and regulations…who knew?

After learning about the process, we were back in the sampling room where 3 samples were included in the price of the tour.  The hubby and I made sure to pick different samples so we could really decide what we liked.  I was less fond of the grappa than the hubby – grappa is made with grape skins left over from wine making.  It was fine, but I’d rather just drink wine if it’s going to be involving grapes.  I did like their gin and vodka.  The gin is not the pine tree gin that most of us remember.  Yes there was a bit of smell of pine to one of their gins, but it was smooth and quite tasty.  The vodka was also very good and went down nice and smooth.  One of the employees came over to ask how things were going and gave us a sample of their barrel gin (it’s brown) – if you like scotch, this beverage is for you!  I ordered a Minnesota Mule which was so refreshing on a warm sunny day.  It was a cocktail featuring gin, ginger beer, lime, and mint over ice.  So refreshing and will likely make an appearance for the upcoming girl’s weekend in July.

After the sampling, we headed over to Lola’s Lakehouse on Lake Waconia.  We sat outside by the lake and enjoyed a starter of walleye cakes followed by a Caesar salad with chicken for the hubby and an order of fish and chips for me.  We finished the meal by sharing a blonde brownie with vanilla ice cream.  It was a good meal and the ambiance of sitting by the lake made it a nice finish to our afternoon in Waconia.

This is definitely a good day trip for anyone in the cities.  There are wineries in the area so lots to do and see in Waconia.

Happy Eating!

Peppers & Fries

We tried a new Minneapolis restaurant on Saturday – Peppers & Fries.  As usual, we were on the early side for dinner and were able to walk right in and get a table.  Also as usual, they seated us in an odd location – right near the bar and the pass-through for the food.  We could have asked to move, but just stayed where we were.  I could probably do an entire post on getting horrible seating in restaurants, but not today.

The menu had a nice story about how the restaurant came to be and why they focus their menu on burgers and burritos.  I guess “peppers” is for the burritos and “fries” is for the burger and a nod to the restaurateur’s name?  Also Peppers and Fries sounds more interesting than a restaurant called “Burgers & Burritos” – however, I know of a restaurant in the Phoenix area called Cheeseburgers & Beer.  No need to do additional advertising with that name!  Speaking of beer, Peppers & Fries has a great selection of craft beers.  I was in the mood for a Diet Coke, so passed on the beer.  Definitely a good place for beer connoisseurs though.

The decor of the place was nice.  The owners are big baseball fans and there were a number of TV’s showing different games.  They have garage doors that they open up to include outdoor seating.  We were inside, but had a nice view of outside and had the fresh air coming through.

Now, on to the food….

Shockingly the hubby went for a burrito instead of a burger.  He went with the Carolina Burrito, which was pulled pork, BBQ sauce, creamy coleslaw, and refried beans.  The burrito was served with tortilla chips and salsa.  While the pork was good, the burrito just didn’t work for him.  The salsa was bland and the chips were average.  He would not get the burrito again and is not likely to head back there anytime soon.

I was the winner in the menu selection game.  I ordered the Bacon & Bleu burger – Applewood bacon, blue cheese dressing, tomato, lettuce, mayo, and blue cheese crumbles.  I had a side of tater tots with the sandwich.  I thought the burger was amazing!  The hamburger patty did not seem to be one of the frozen, pre-made patties that you often get at restaurants.  It seemed handmade and the flavor was amazing.  The blue cheese on top of the burger just added to the awesomeness of the sandwich.  Very flavorful.  The tots were good.  Not sure you can go wrong with tots.  I enjoyed using the blue cheese dripping off my sandwich as a sauce for the tots.  I would definitely come back to this place for a burger.  Given that the hubby didn’t enjoy his meal and we don’t live close to it at all, it’ll probably be some time before I go back.

I give it a thumbs up for trying out – just go with the burgers!

Happy Eating!